Artists explore roots, origins, and migrations in 2019 Be Your Own art exhibition

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Aisha Abdulkarimu

Artists celebrated personal identity, creativity, and expression at the opening of the second annual Be Your Own art exhibition on March 27th in the Fairchild-Martindale Library 6th floor innovation space. The mixed media exhibit, created by nearly 100 students, faculty, and staff, is based upon this year's theme of spiritual, emotional, or physical relationship with roots, origins, and migrations.

Organized by the Lehigh University Center for Gender Equity and co-sponsored by Library and Technology Services, Be Your Own aims to validate and acknowledge unheard and unseen stories at Lehigh.

Rita Jones, Director of the Center for Gender Equity, said “The large number of artists who created art in direct response to this year's themes of roots, migrations, and origins creates a diverse narrative about Lehigh's community.”

Jones said this year’s project saw a higher submission rate of art than its inaugural year, with the Center co-hosting creation spaces with smaller groups and organizations on campus.

“The student Project Coordinators worked diligently to encourage artists to create statements to accompany their artwork,” she said. “While the statements certainly facilitate a dialogue with those looking at the art, the statements also allow the artist to think about what they created, why, and how.”

Several artists shared what inspired and moved them to create their pieces, on display in the gallery through August, 2019.

Laura DeFelice ‘19

“I was told to create art based on "my roots". Well, as a black person in America, I don't know my roots. I don't have a flag, a language, a homeland to trace myself back to. It has all been lost as a consequence of history. But I do have one connection: my hair. The dark, thick, curly crown on my head has been passed down from generation to generation. The roots of my hair connect me to my ancestors. I may not know where I come from, but I know I come from strength, from resilience, from dark skin and big hair.”


Scott Burden, Associate Director, The Pride Center

“My life has been uprooted several times. Each time, I have found myself more firmly planted in a more polished me. I anticipate that continuing as I spill from one place to the next. This particular piece represents one experience where being uprooted wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked for it to be yet I found myself re-planted in my most authentic pot yet.” (Artist's statement)

Oneida Calloway ‘21
Pieces of Oneself

My piece is about my journey of self-discovery. I chose to display my pride flags of both sexuality and gender identity. I put myself in the middle, with only a few put together as to say “When starting to find yourself, you realize you haven’t pieced yourself together nearly as much as you thought.” (Artist’s statement)


Chelsea Gilbert, Director, The Pride Center
Proof of Resistance

“My upbringing was repressive in many ways; however, I count myself lucky to have grown from that repression into a space of resistance. This piece demonstrates this journey through the metaphor of a tree and a fist. Trees are resilient beings that grow through the seasons and give life back to the earth as a result, and the fist has its roots in Marxist, feminist, and Black Power movements. May we all find ways to transform repressive systems into resistance and resilience.” (Artist’s statement)

See more from the artists and the event on the 2019 Be Your Own Gallery Opening photo album.

Additional support for Be Your Own is provided by the Council on Equity and Community, Student Auxiliary Services, the Humanities Center, and Lehigh After Dark.